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A purchasing assistant is an individual who works in the purchasing department of a business or retail establishment. This person may assist the senior purchasers or buyers in making decisions about what purchases to make, though most people in this position work more on the administrative and data entry side of things. Some will also serve as a point of contact between the purchasing department and the manufacturers or businesses from whom the items are purchased. It is important for anyone who wants to work as a purchasing assistant to have a high attention to detail, and the ability to understand complex reports, purchase orders, and invoices.
There are typically not many specific education requirements to become a purchasing assistant. Most people will have at least a high school education and possibly an associate's or bachelor's degree in business or accounting, though most businesses do not require this, and are willing to provide on-the-job training for this entry level position. People who eventually want to work as a buyer or purchaser will often start here as a purchasing assistant, and attempt to work their way up after a few months or years in the position, depending on the size of the business.
Administrative work and data entry are often the largest aspect of the job of a purchasing assistant. When the senior buyer makes decisions about what to purchase for the company and when, this information may then be provided to the purchasing assistant who is responsible for drawing up the purchase order, and possibly even placing it. For this reason, an excellent attention to detail is required in order to avoid costly mistakes. On a weekly or monthly basis, the assistant may be responsible for preparing detailed purchasing reports, and ensuring that invoices are prepared and distributed as required.
It is also important for a purchasing assistant to be able to provide good customer service, since he or she might be the one who is contacted by external manufacturers or contractors. Though his or her superiors will likely be the ones drawing up contracts, the assistant might be the one sending them, and ensuring that they are completed and signed properly, so it is important to develop positive relationships with manufacturers or contractors. In addition to these regular tasks, a purchasing assistant might also need to provide generalized office support such as answering phones, filing, and operating various pieces of office technology like fax machines.